Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of a strong immune system has become quite apparent. Cutting through the obscure promises of ‘immunity boosting’ supplements and ‘quick-fix’ hoaxes may seem daunting, but there remain evidence-based lifestyle practices that can help support and strengthen your intricate immune system, while improving your overall health.
A Balanced Gut is Key for a Healthy Immune System
Balancing the bacteria in your gut is one of the most important and effective ways to improve your overall health. The mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract houses 70-80% of your immune system, so an imbalance in your gut microbiome often leads to unwellness. This unwellness can manifest in a variety of forms including bloating, diarrhea, increased susceptibility to viruses, and increased vulnerability to illnesses that can degrade your overall quality of life.
How Exercise Can Improve Gut Health
Regular exercise enriches and stabilizes the gut microbiome diversity by altering the composition of gut bacteria. ¹
Researcher and Associate Professor Mitsuharu Matsumoto was the first to find that 5 weeks of exercise-training resulted in an increase in the bacteria metabolite butyrate. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) that strengthens the gut lining and prevents gut inflammation. Specifically, exercise increases the number of butyrate producing microbes. ²
Furthermore, a study comparing rugby players to sedentary individuals conclusively showed — across age, size, and gender — that the athletes had a significantly more diverse microbiome when compared compared to their counterparts who had a sedentary lifestyle. ³
Takeaway: Regular exercise alters and balances the composition of the gut microbiota independent of diet, and therefore can support a strong and healthy immune system.
Regular exercise = More diverse microbiota = More effective immune system